The Four D’s

I like to plan things in my life. I meticulously planned my career. I have a work-out routine and a work-out plan. I like to plan my daily activities for each week at least one week ahead. And I am extensively planning my finances. But no matter how good the plan is, there is always a chance that something unexpected happens, something that will throw your plans into a limbo. That’s just how it is. There is always something that can be difficult to be taken into account.

The four Ds refer to exactly these kind of circumstances, and while they are hard to plan, they are so frequent that the term “the four Ds” became financial jargon among insurers and financial advisors. These unexpected events more than often create uncertainty in our lives, and effect not only our physical and mental health, but also our finances in a dramatic way. These events are:

  • Disease
  • Divorce
  • Disaster
  • Death

Each of these terms is pretty much self-explanatory, but nevertheless let me share a few words on each point either way.

Disease will obviously seldom refer to a cold, a flu, or a fever. But it will refer to an unexpected development like the need for a surgery, a diagnosis with a severe illness like cancer or diabetes. It might also not be directly concerned with you, but with someone you care and are or feel responsible for.

Divorce is further down the line, but given that roughly some 50% of all marriages fail, it’s a pretty common event that can and will have dramatic consequences on one’s financial situation.

Disaster used to be less common, but with all the floods and fires across the globe, earth quakes, tsunamis and who knows what else is about to happen in the next months and years to come, it’s a very valid one. A disaster can literally demolish an entire life of financial investments, especially for those who focused on real estate and other physical forms of storage of value.

Death is the last one, and while even one’s own death is not for free, I’d rather consider this to be an event concerned to people who are close to us. Expenses for a funeral might come hand in hand with the need for additional financial support to someone you care about. In some instances with your direct family, you might also not inherit what you expect. It can happen that instead of adding assets to your net value calculation you get surprised with additional leverage (debt/loans) that need to be balanced and that will fall under your responsibility.

Billions of people throughout many generations have had experience with each of those Ds, and while it’s impossible to know when one of them will hit you, it certainly is possible to prepare for each one of them.

Take the time to think about this.
It will be time well spent.

Is it FIRE or just FI

This pandemic just keeps dragging on, and it’s very interesting to observe how people are handling it all across the globe. When things got started, Asia was on the forefront of effective handling of the pandemic. Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Singapore. We managed here to keep infections and deaths on the low, as people were quick to adapt to protective measures and limitations on economic activity. Europe and the US were lagging behind, and there were frequent discussions on what the west can learn from the east in the future.

But now the tides have turned. While Europe and the US is on track to full recovery, here in Thailand I feel like we are back to where it all started. Lockdowns, economic restrictions. It’s like we got stuck somewhere along the way, and can’t find a way to move forward.

This is of course mainly due to the lack of efficient vaccines. Herd immunity is apparently not an option with this virus now circulating in the form of several diverse mutations, and our natural immune system not offering the long-term protection that would be required to keep infections at bay. To top it off, the SinoVac and SinoPharm vaccines aren’t working well, and the local production of AstraZenecca has stalled for whatever reason.

FIRE vs. FI

But let me stop here before I get political. My point is, that since this pandemic keeps dragging on and I am spending more time at home than usual, I realized a few things. One of those things is that I really don’t want to retire any soon. I like to work, and I miss having more action in my hotels, in my office, and spending more time with my guests. I like spending time with people, and the idea of retiring early and spending much more time on non-productive things feels a little less desirable after more than one year of Covid.

I know that there are thousands of people who don’t want to work at all. People who don’t want to report to anyone, to not depend on anyone, and to not being micro-managed by anyone. I am also fairly often at odds with myself over all these work-necessities, which make me sometimes feel not free, dependent, and all the negative notions that accompany these points.

But retiring early… honestly right now, it doesn’t seem for me like the right thing to do. I want to work. I might get out of the hotel business and do something else, become a consultant or stock analyst, turn to freelancing or whatever. But I am pretty sure that I will keep working for a long time to come.

So my goal changes from FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) to FI (Financial Independence).

It may not sound like much, but there is a significant point to it: Since I will keep working for a long time to come, I can be a little less frugal. I don’t need to maximize my savings all the time, because with a continuous stream of income from work, I have significantly more time to reach retirement. Striving “only” for financial independence first will give me the feeling of security and freedom that I want and need, while not thinking too much about retirement will take some stress and pressure out of the equation.

What’s the right thing for you?

Being financially independent offers a lot of options to do things that you actually want to do. If you don’t worry anymore about a low income, then you can start a new career, change your field of expertise or interest. Hell, you could even do an internship again in your 40s or 50s. Why not? It can open up some very exciting opportunities for you to learn more about the world, to pursue dreams which you set aside when you were younger due to financial concerns, or simply to just gain new perspectives. For me, this is absolutely “good enough”.

But of course, this means that hanging out on the beach all day and sipping Jim Beams with Coke will have to wait. That’s probably for the better anyway.

Cutting through the noise

We live in a time where information is abundant. The internet has become this fantastic tool, that gives us the opportunity to connect and access information all around the globe. We can read blogs (like this one), and we can gain access to newspaper articles and magazines. We can connect to professional writers and to amateurs. To complete strangers writing on some Reddit boards, or to follow the thoughts of such successful personalities like Warren Buffett.

The amount of information on the net is amazing. But it also creates a lot of noise. We can’t trust everything we read. It’s often hard to differentiate a fact from an opinion. Numbers can be skewed and often require to be verified. And we never truly know the agenda of anyone who puts things out there for others to read. Finding reliable sources is more challenging than ever.

Finding the right information

I spent a lot of time looking for informative sites, that can feed me investment ideas, offer some basic stock analysis, and that have enough followers to know that they actually have an impact when they write something. And (actually not surprisingly) I ended up with a slim selection of mostly professional analysts and journalists.

All this talk about mainstream media and fake news is just that. Talk. But fact is that people who actually work in and for the business still remain the most credible sources out there. Because they learned that stuff. They know how to gather information. They know how to ask questions. They know when something doesn’t “smell” right, and they have the means to dig deeper. They are being paid to do that.

The WIRECARD scandal in Germany would have been on a much smaller scale, if people were trusting more The Financial Times than some blogs and forums which were hyping the stock. Reading the Financial Times is also seriously more educating in the field of finance, even though I don’t like their political stance. The New York Times can give us more accurate ideas about what’s happening in the world than any Facebook forum. And a forum for professional investors like Seeking Alpha can give us much more valuable information than Reddit. I also like to regularly take a look at the finance section of Yahoo! (https://finance.yahoo.com) which is incredibly informative and the last piece of Yahoo! that still has some value to me and to many professional investors.

Verifying is key

But no matter where you do your due diligence, I still recommend to go a step further and to trying to verify the information you read. Are the numbers of the company that you want to invest in really matching up? Go to their investor relations website and download their annual report. Is the new technology they are touting really so revolutionary? Google it and read about it from some sceptic voices. It’s good to know alternatives and other perspectives, and these might actually lead you to other, better ideas.

About Real Estate

It is well documented, that purchasing a house or a condo is a major contribution to building wealth. It’s a large and serious investment that requires commitment over a long period of time (typically anywhere between 10-30 years), and one which offers several benefits, financially and personally. For most people this is also what they would consider a “safe” investment which they feel comfortable with.

Phrases like “real estate never looses value”, or “when all things go down, I will still have my property” are pretty common, especially when it comes to discussions about whether you should invest in real estate, or in stocks.

It’s more complicated than that

I have diversified my investments across several segments, including real estate. However I have not purchased a house or condo. I have bought land. 1,2 ha of agricultural land, and another 0,54 ha of land that is destined for future housing. The agricultural land is currently being leased out to a neighbor of my parents, with a very simple arrangement that doesn’t really provide me any money, but instead supports my parents with agricultural goods for daily use (think of potatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, etc.), and it covers any involved taxes for that land. The other 0,54 ha I bought 6 years ago on an auction. It’s a piece of land right across the land of my parents, and I bought it with the idea of building a vacation home out there.

After a couple of years I realized that this vacation home will never happen, so I decided to evaluate the market and to see if I can sell that land. Lucky enough, prices have increased greatly and I expect to come out of this investment with a good deal.

What largely contributed to the price increase is the great location of the village, the diversified and international folks there (we got people from Poland, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy) and the fact that people who live there care about their properties and their houses, contributing to a good look and comfortable atmosphere of the entire village. The next small town is only 5 km away, the next larger city only 30 km, and if you want to go international: It’s only some 120 km to Berlin in Germany. Great for a weekend trip.

All this contributes greatly to the location, but there are tons of other examples where things can go very wrong. Mismanagement of land, houses and condos can significantly contribute to a depreciation in value. Having the “wrong” neighbors can diminish the reputation of the location and drive prices down, rather than up. And building “on-the-cheap” can create early deterioration of look and shape of a house or condo, requiring additional investments not only from yourself, but also from all those around you in order for a location to gain value.

When things go wrong, real estate can turn out to be not the dream package that your parents were always talking about. There are several and significant risks involved, which are largely out of your control. Putting money into a piece of land, a house, or a condo, is surely not risk-free and real estate doesn’t always gain in value.

Do your research

Similarly with stocks, you need to do some research before you put money into this sector. Check and evaluate the location, visit the place, say hello to some neighbors. If it’s a country-side village, take a look at the condition of other houses nearby, the roads, bridges, public transport, water supply and electricity. Where is the next restaurant? How are small businesses doing there? Is it a family or a single place? Is there a school? A church? Wha’ts the median age of the population, and where is the next doctor or hospital?

Tick off some of these boxes, do the due diligence, and see your odds of putting your money into the right place increasing dramatically. Of course there is still no guarantee, but there never is. After all, it’s all not about guaranteeing anything, but only about increasing the odds to do the right thing.

Oh, and don’t get into the discussion whether stocks or real estate is better. It’s pointless. If you can, just do both.

About paying taxes in Thailand

I got to admit, I don’t like to talk about taxes. Depending on where you live it is either a complicated, or very complicated topic with lots of things to know, to consider, and plenty of pitfalls. But of course, this is only the case because taxes are so important. Taxes can make all the difference when it comes to building wealth, and like it or not, it’s worth spending some time to learn about the challenges and opportunities that come with the tax code in your country.

I am living in Thailand and the tax code here is rather simple. For investors, it is a paradise. There is no capital gains tax, meaning that no matter when and how much I profit from trading equities, there are no taxes due at any point. Not today, nor tomorrow. There is a withholding tax on dividends in the acceptable amount of 10%. There are no loopholes or exceptions to avoid it, so the bank will deduct it automatically upon pay-out. There is no need to declare or report anything when you do your tax declaration. Simple and fast.

But there are hidden opportunities

I am mostly trading regular equities and ETFs and since the regulations are so easy, the tax part was never really on my radar. But I certainly should have invested more time to learn about it much earlier on.

I have learned by now that the government is actually actively supporting investors in building wealth through retirement funds. As an employee with regular income in Thailand, I can invest in mutual funds designated for my retirement, and receive significant tax benefits for doing that.

The so-called RMFs (Retirement Mutual Funds) can invest in either foreign or domestic equities or funds, and need to be hold for a minimum of 5 years before withdrawal. From your total annual investment, up to THB 500.000 per year can be deducted from your total taxable income. The tax code for personal income in Thailand in 2021 looks like this:

Taxable Income
(baht)
Tax Rate
(%)
0-150,000Exempt
more than 150,000 but less than 300,0005
more than 300,000 but less than 500,00010
more than 500,000 but less than 750,00015
more than 750,000 but less than 1,000,00020
more than 1,000,000 but less than 2,000,00025
more than 2,000,000 but less than 4,000,00030
Over 4,000,00035

Now here is how this works. Let’s say you have an income of THB 2,600,000 per year.
You will then pay:

THB 0 – on the first THB 150,000 (total 150,000)
THB 7,500 (5%) – on the next THB 150,000 (total 300,000)
THB 20,000 (10%) – on the next THB 200,000 (total 500,000)
THB 37,500 (15%) – on the next THB 250,000 (total 750,000)
THB 50,000 (20%) – on the next THB 250,000 (total 1,000,000)
THB 250,000 (25%) – on the next THB 1,000,000 (total 2,000,000) and finally
THB 180,000 (30%) – on the last THB 600,000 (total 2,600,000).

Your total tax will be therefore: THB 545,000 or 20,96%.

If you now max out your RMF contribution up to THB 500,000, you can deduct this investment from your total taxable income. This would reduce the total amount from THB 2,600,000 to only THB 2,100,000. Therefore your tax obligations for the last 30% bracket would also shrink, from THB 180,000 down to only THB 30,000. After your tax declaration you will get a refund of THB 150,000.

So on the one hand you get a tax benefit. But as an investor, I look at it another way: I receive effectively a guaranteed 30% annual return on my investment.

Do some reading

Every country has its own rules and regulations, but since we are all part of the same system, there are similar opportunities everywhere. Whether it’s the 401k in the US, the RMF in Thailand, or the “Arbeitnehmersparzulage” in Germany. Chances are that the tax code in your country offers you opportunities to boost your savings and investments. These can be quite significant and strongly support you in reaching your financial goals. So don’t be lazy. Do some reading, educate yourself, and grab the opportunities which have been designed for you to get the most out of the system.

Investing in Space – Part 2

It’s already May. In just another month we will have already finished the first half of 2021. I am kind of happy that time is moving so fast now, because this whole COVID situation just doesn’t seem to end.

But COVID or not, the world doesn’t stop turning and one of the most exciting investment frontiers is gaining more traction. As I wrote last year about investing in space, today I’d like to share the updated infographic from one of the most devoted space investment specialists: Seraphim.

Not all of these companies are publicly listed. Some are even still simple startups. But this smart overview can give you more ideas how vastly diversified this sector already is, and what opportunities lie ahead of investors who are willing now to take the first steps.

By the way, for those who don’t want to research too much but are eager to invest in space, there is an ETF available on the US market. It’s called Procure Space ETF and the trading shortcut is pretty spot on: UFO. Another option is the ARK Space Exploration & Innovation ETF (Shortcut: ARKX).

Investing in 2021

April is coming to an end, which means that a third of the year has already passed. In as little as two more months we will be through the first half of the year. What started out more on the optimistic side is now back to where we were almost a year ago. At least here in Thailand.

But you wouldn’t know that if you would pay attention only to the stock market. Most company shares have recovered, and even grown beyond their pre-pandemic levels.

The explanation for this is multi-faceted, but given what I can see from my own company and competitors, it’s a mixture of pre-mature optimism, and the now all-too popular FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out.

Optimism

Most investors I know are optimists. Most tend to be a little greedy. And, unfortunately, many are trying to time the market. When the crisis started and markets fell by 30% or more, many saw a great buying opportunity. Myself included. The expectation was that a pandemic can’t last that long. Many of us didn’t actually believe it to be real. Or at least not ‘that’ bad.

Plenty of us tried to estimate the lowest possible market point, and then started to get back on the train. The more people started buying, the quicker shares started to stabilize, until demand overtook supply, and prices started to rise. Then FOMO kicked in. People noted the turning trend, and scared of missing out joined in the purchase frenzy. This is how we got here.

So far, this optimism has served us well, but the long-term success will depend on how things play out in the next 2-3 months. The US, Europe, and leading economies of Asia need to show that they can control the situation without sacrificing their economies. Otherwise optimism might turn into disappointment, and drag the market down once again.

What’s the plan?

For the young investor who is not in any financial distress, the simple strategy is to just hold your ground. It’s impossible to predict what and how it will happen, but for the long-term focused investor it doesn’t really matter that much. Stay your ground. When shares go up, enjoy. When they go down again, look out for the next buying opportunity.

For those who might have cash issues, this may be the time to trim some positions for shares which reached their all-time highs. Put some cash aside, re-fill your emergency fund, and be patient. You will sleep better at night.

About BitCoin

I often get questions from friends and colleagues about investments in cryptocurrencies, mainly BitCoin. Given the daily amount of news and reports about the BitCoin craze, it’s understandable. It’s almost impossible to not hear about BitCoin these days.

To give it right away: I am not invested in BitCoin, or any other cryptocurrency for that matter. I also don’t speculate with any other currencies on the FOREX market.

The blockchain technology is a very interesting development that will find, and in some instances already found its way in some form into business and into our society. BitCoin is only one of the first products to put that technology to use. But very few people who invest in BitCoin actually really understand what it’s about. Most investors today are simply following the upward trend, and speculate that it will continue to grow for some more time to come.

BTC=F (BitCoin Futures on the Stock Exchange in Frankfurt/Germany)

Looking at the chart, it’s hard to deny that investing in BitCoin so far has been a great way to multiply your money. The big question for investors is of course whether this trend will continue, or not.

Investing in BitCoin is easy. Now.

One reason why BitCoin has moved up significantly in just such a short amount of time is the recently developed ease of access to it. It’s easy to look at the chart and to say: Why didn’t I invest in BitCoin much earlier? Well, it’s really simple. Investing in BitCoin was previously not an easy thing to do.

I was looking into investing in BitCoin some 5 years ago. My journey to invest in BitCoin started like this:

First I needed to find a trustworthy digital wallet. Then I needed to transfer money to that digital wallet. In the final step, I needed to purchase BitCoin through that digital wallet.

The challenges that came with it were however pretty significant: I needed to make sure to safely store (and not to loose) the wallet number, which was a complicated compilation of numbers, letters, and individual characters. That digital wallet number was not retrievable in case of loss.

I also needed to make sure to have a bullet-proof password to it, AND that I don’t forget or loose that password either, because it would also be not retrievable in case of loss.

I needed to somehow try to verify that the digital wallet I decided to use was actually a trustworthy, real offering. That was pretty hard, because there were a lot of scam companies out there and no serious verification system that one could have relied upon.

So there was a real risk to BitCoin before the actual buying process, and even beyond after the purchase, due to the limitations on the quality and trust into the digital wallet. I remember that I did open an account with a digital wallet provider, but the amount of disinformation and misleading data on the internet, the lack of reviews and guarantees, it just made it really hard to believe that my money would be in any way protected if I transfer it to any of the accounts out there. This reason alone was the main reason for me to not invest in BitCoin at that time.

This hurdles have been overcome by now. Access and purchasing have been simplified, there is more trust in the process. But that was not the case 5 years ago.

Analysis

We can’t really do any analysis on the fundamentals, because there are none. It’s not a company, there is no product or management team behind it. It’s simply a scarce resource that is currently of interest.

Similar with other currencies, its value hinges on people believing in it. And to be fair, there are plenty of people believing in BitCoin. Right now. The easier access allowed more people to get invested. The media is pushing it. And many even prominent skeptics have changed their opinion in recent years, as cryptocurrencies gained more and more drive and appeal among investors.

An argument that I heard very often is that all the millionaires and billionaires in the world are invested in BitCoin, so it must be a reasonable place to park your cash.

The arguments

To the “rich people” argument, let me say that most of those millionaires and billionaires didn’t get rich with BitCoin. Most of them got rich with their own companies, or with stock investments. They invested in BitCoin after they were already rich, and had therefore much less worries whether their investment would go well or not. They were willing to accept a high risk factor, because they didn’t care that much to loose a couple of thousand Dollars or Euros. Most small investors cannot afford such a high risk-reward ratio.

The risks of an investment in crypto-currencies are still very real. Here just a few arguments to make:

  • The value of the currency depends on people believing in it. This believe might be weakened or even disappear when another, better and/or smarter cryptocurrency enters the market.
  • The most rigorous believers in BitCoin assume that it will at some point become a viable world-currency, free of government regulation and in tight control due to its scarcity. There is however valid reason to believe that most governments will regulate BitCoin at some point and introduce their own versions of digital currencies. No government in the world can afford to loose the power to monitor and control their cash flow and supply.
  • BitCoin prides itself in its anonymity, but the blockchain ledger is in fact an open-source controlled system, and not anonymous at all. Admittedly, it would require a significant amount of time to track BitCoin owners through the ledger, but it’s certainly possible, and with our ever-expanding computing power, it’s just a matter of time for systems to be developed that will be able to track owners throughout the chain.
  • The ever-rising price is not positively contributing for BitCoin to become a real alternative payment method. Why would anyone use BitCoin to buy any product, if the value of the BitCoin keeps increasing day by day?
  • BitCoin is an electronic system, and those can be cracked or infiltrated. We might need to get into quantum computing to get the computing power necessary to pull this off, but we are almost there. Slipping in a virus or a bug into the system could crack its security, expose owners, or allow BitCoin to get stolen. Of course, every bug or virus can also be corrected or eliminated, but a major event similar with a “bank robbery” could quickly undermine the trust in the entire BitCoin system and put pressure on it.

There is a great list of arguments and counter-arguments to be found here:
https://safehodl.github.io/failure/
I would encourage everyone interested in BitCoin to go through the comments and to form your own opinion on whether you believe in the upside or downside of it.

Should you invest in BitCoin?

If you follow the link above you will find plenty of smart arguments from both side of the aisle, that can help you making an informed decision.

Personally I don’t intend to invest in BitCoin because it doesn’t fit into my investing strategy. I buy great companies at a fair price, and enjoy benefitting from real-life products and real-life profits in the form of dividends that I receive. BitCoin doesn’t produce anything and doesn’t offer any service that I would consider useful (for now) to see it as a viable investment. This may change over time of course, but for now this is where I stand.

What I would however explore instead (and I will) is to dive deeper into the blockchain technology, and to invest in an ETF that would focus on companies that utilize blockchain for their products and services. This is because I am not as much interested in BitCoin, as I am interested in the technology behind it.

The blockchain technology has certainly more aspects to it, and in the long-run investing in companies that can utilize this technology will offer a better risk-reward ratio, than a hyped digital-currency.

Market Crash – First Round

I somehow managed not to write an article for a whole month. No excuses, but I was busy. I got occupied with my wife’s smoothie business, I had to make a 1-week business trip to Krabi and Koh Samui, and my head office in Bangkok had plenty of requests for me to work on. My daughter required a little more attention, my dog had his final moments and sadly passed away after almost 18 years of companionship. March was a little overwhelming.

Most of the little free-time that I had left I spent at the gym. Turning 41 must have triggered a tiny midlife crisis in me, because recently I not only started visiting the gym more regularly. I even started applying face cream. Yes, I know. I might be late to the party but previously, I never actually considered doing that. Instead, I enjoyed getting to look older for the last 5 years or so. I don’t know, but all these small wrinkles, I always felt like they would add more character to the picture. This changed last month.

Anyway. That was some thoughtful introduction. Now back to finance.

With all my portfolios back in the greens, I call the market crash over. Done. Finished. History has once again proven reliable, and the stock market showed a pattern that experienced investors appreciate for many decades now. There is always a crash. And there is always a recovery. Once again those who trusted in the market and kept steady or even invested during the crash are now coming out stronger, and wealthier than before.

Don’t blame yourself if you missed out on the action. It might have been just the first round for you, but it surely won’t be the last. We don’t know when the next crash will come and it’s impossible to time the market. But history is teaching us over and over again, that there is no bad time to start investing. In the long-run markets tend to go up more frequently, and stronger if compared with the downturns. So when stocks do go down, it’s usually a good time to be looking out for great companies at fair or even at cheap prices. In the meantime, you can keep investing anyway.

The market was rising strongly for a few weeks now, and it’s very likely that it will continue to rise. Unless of course we get another pandemic, a war, or any other kind tragedy that would put the world in turmoil.

I am rather optimistic, by nature, mostly because the US has a reasonable person back at the top. President Biden is more predictable, communicates smarter, and pays attention to the world as a whole, in stark contrast to his predecessor. At the same time he is tackling massive investments in his countries future, which should push the entire world into a competitive streak of investments that will benefit a wide range of corporations globally. Investments create cashflows, revenues, salaries. These in return curb consumption, spending. That’s how the world works, and that’s why investors keep winning.

So if you are already invested: Enjoy the change of winds and watch your portfolio recovering or growing. If you are not invested yet, now is as good as ever. You might have missed the speedy recovery, but the opportunities are endless.

Increasing the odds

In the world of finance, we have many strategies, many different financial instruments, and thousands of advisors who will be telling you to have a unique way of making a fortune. Some of them might happen to be the right people. Some will present just the right tools. Other times, either the tools or the people handling those tools turn out to be wrong.

Especially when it comes to the people, some might be even known to be flawed in one way or another, presenting methods and strategies that turn out to be a pure gamble when it comes down to the test. Some are honest. Some are not.

Some investors have the opportunity to try out all these different ideas, tools, and strategies. Those with sufficient funds to play around and who are willing to take on all kinds of risk can experiment to find the tool and the strategy that will produce the best possible results for them. But most of us are not in this category. Those who earn a regular wage and have only the option to save and invest 10-20% of their income don’t have the resources to play around. For those I have a simple advice on how to become an investor. A successful one. It’s surprisingly simple, and it’s something that most investors know by heart, as they heard it over and over again from no one else but the worlds most famous value investor, Warren Buffett:

“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

While the context of this quote was referring to the topic of value investing, it includes a simple message: When you invest, you should focus on buying great companies at a fair price.

This simple formula established the foundation for Buffett’s success. There are of course no guarantees that this will make you a billionaire. It doesn’t guarantee that you will become another super-rich person. But by following this simple rule you will significantly improve your odds to do financially better.

So when I advise friends or colleagues on investing, I am not promising anyone that he or she will become rich. Instead, I am promising to increase their odds. By a large margin.

What are the odds

Increasing your financial well-being without investments puts you below the odds of a lottery ticket. That’s 1 in 13,983,816 (according to Google). Maybe you will find the perfect job, that will not burn you out, that you will love to wake-up for every single day, and that will pay you so well that you can comfortably retire without a single worry on the back of your mind. Maybe you will inherit some surprise fortune from your parents. Maybe you will happen to be at the right place, at the right time, to receive an opportunity of a life-time that will set you up financially for the rest of your life.

I got a suggestion. Let’s remove the word “maybe”, and replace it with a plan. Because the odds for “maybe” are not even 50:50. They are somewhere around the odds of that lottery ticket that I wrote about.

Now it’s hard to put a number on the odds of becoming rich through investments, but history and statistics put them significantly higher than the 50:50 figure. Every single investment you make stacks the odds a little bit more in your favor to have a better financial future, while at the same time it also reduces the risk of a financial failure. I recommend here a short read to put it a little better into perspective. It’s definitely better than what I could write here right now on a lazy Sunday afternoon 😉

Not all of your investments will be a success. In fact, the Pareto principle also applies to investments: 80 percent of your success will be attributed to only 20 percent of your investment. So if you invest in 10 stocks, only 2 of them will truly outperform (on average) and be responsible for 80% of your final result. Some will succeed, but on a smaller scale. Others might disappoint and underperform. But the point is that investors are actively contributing to setting up themselves for success. Because with every investments their odds increase.

So the message of this post is: When you invest, don’t do it for the promise of becoming rich. The true initial purpose is to increase your odds to improve your financial well-being. Whether it will make you rich, just financially stable or simply more comfortable, that’s another story.